As a main source of protein, commercial fish stocks and other commercial sea products are renewable resources, which could sustain human needs in the long term — if exploited in an appropriate manner.
Although further improvements are still necessary, the analysis of long time series shows clear and important signs of improvement in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea. At least 24-47 % of all stocks meet at least one of two criteria defining the Marine Strategy Framework Directive’s ‘good environmental status’ (GES) in the regions respectively. Meeting these criteria means that the exploitation (i.e. fishing mortality, F) and reproductive capacity of the stocks are compatible with their maximum sustainable yield (MSY). While slightly less than half of all stocks in the region have adequate assessments allowing comparisons with at least one of the GES criteria (83% of these met at least one criterion), these assessed stocks account for approximately 75% of the landings in the NEA and Baltic Sea. Since the early 2000s, better management of fish and shellfish fisheries has contributed to a clear decrease in fishing pressure in these two regional seas, with the average fishing mortality close to F MSY  in 2018. This has led to signs of recovery in the reproductive capacity of several fish and shellfish stocks. If these efforts continue, fishing mortality in the region on average should remain near F MSY  and reproductive capacity should continue to improve towards the objective for healthy fish and shellfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.
In contrast, in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea the situation remains critical.  Only six out of 70 stocks (8.6 %) in the Mediterranean Sea and none of the 7 stocks in the Black Sea meet at least one of the GES criteria in these regions. This is mainly due to the prevalence of overfishing and a significant lack of knowledge of the reproductive capacity state of fish and shellfish stocks. Most of the stocks considered in the Mediterranean Sea had adequate assessment to compare fishing mortality with the GES criterion, but few had measures or thresholds of reproductive capacity. In the Black Sea, five of the seven stocks had adequate assessments to evaluate fishing mortality but only one of these also had measures or thresholds for reproductive capacity. It is unlikely that the 2020 policy objective has been met in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
Given this context, the 2020 objective of having healthy commercial fish and shellfish populations is unlikely to have been met in Europe’s seas and further collective action is required.

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